U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson Lori K. Haley sent the Guardian a statement today that suggests that ICE might change the city’s Secure-Communities activation status, after all.
“Once ICE receives the correspondence from the San Francisco County Sheriff, we will review the request and convene a meeting with the other agencies involved, including the California Department of Justice, to discuss the Sheriff’s specific issues and concerns. Based upon those discussions, ICE and its partners will examine the options and seek a feasible resolution, which may include changing the jurisdiction’s activation status,” ICE stated.
ICE's statement came in the wake of a conference call from SF Sheriff Mike Hennessey and SF Police Commissioner Angela Chan, who have been leading the charge to opt-out of a program that is supposed to be voluntary.
“Secure-Comm is not a federal law, it’s a program and it’s voluntary,” Chan told the Guardian.
Chan says she considers ICE’s statement a positive sign, but she insists that San Francisco be at the negotiating table, moving forward.
“I think it’s important that ICE does not simply meet again with Attorney General Jerry Brown and not include San Francisco. Sheriff Mike Hennessey needs to be at the table," Chan said.
ICE notes that since Secure-Comm's activation in San Francisco in early June, the program has resulted in ICE taking custody of “89 potentially removable aliens, including 25 individuals with prior convictions for serious or violent offenses.”
“Secure Communities continues to be a vital tool for identifying potentially removable criminal aliens who’ve come into local law enforcement custody and expediting their removal from the United States,” ICE stated. “It’s a major step forward in ICE’s ongoing efforts to work with local law enforcement to prevent potentially dangerous criminal aliens from being released to our streets.”
But Chan points to an article in Bay City News, in which Hennessey clarifies that he does not have a problem with cooperating with ICE around serious criminal offenders.
"I am not unwilling to cooperate with ICE with regard to serious [offenders] charged with felonies," Hennessey reportedly said during today’s conference call with ICE. He also clarified that he had reported felony suspects believed to be in the country without paperwork before Secure-Comm was implemented and will continue to do so under SF’s sanctuary ordinance.
SecureComm is currently in effect in 35 California counties, including all nine Bay Area counties, Los Angeles and San Diego. Under the program, California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s Justice Department shares fingerprints of anyone booked into jail after an arrest, be it for felony or misdemeanor charges, with ICE's databases to determine if that person is here legally.
In May, when Brown rejected Hennessey's initial opt-out request, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom backed Brown up, but police Chief George Gascon has reportedly indicated that he would like to see those arrested for minor crimes be exempted.
Today, Hennessey reminded reporters that he has already taken all the steps that ICE is recommending today to try to opt out, but that he was told in that previous go-around--by phone, no less--that opting-out was not an option.
"No meeting was held, no meeting was called, and they did not give me the courtesy of a written response," Hennessey said.
ICE statistics' also show that of the ten people already deported from San Francisco under Secure-Comm, only one had been convicted of a serious crime, and six had non-criminal backgrounds.
ICE’s Virginia Kice reportedly told BCN those with non-criminal histories may have had “extensive” histories of immigration-related arrests, which are typically handled administratively.
But Chan says that ICE’s latest statistics seem to prove that the program should be renamed Insecure Communities.
“This actually hurts public safety,” Chan said